2013 Florida State Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Florida State Seminole Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Florida State offense is back. The 2012 edition cranked out more yards—6,591—than any other team in Seminoles history, a balanced unit that ranked No. 2 in ACC rushing, while producing the first quarterback chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft, EJ Manuel. Now that Manuel is a Buffalo Bill, though, the ‘Noles need to develop a successor. Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia, paving the way for Jameis Winston to become the most talked about redshirt freshman in America during the offseason. The rookie has been a revelation so far, tantalizing fans with his rocket arm, quick feet and impressive maturity. If Winston maintains his composure, the offense will again be potent. The ground game is assertive, with James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Mario Pender set to run behind the ACC's most physical offensive line, a group that exceeded all expectations last season. The corps of receivers took a hit when Greg Dent was suspended in June. Still, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary lead an athletic group of pass catchers who'll do more good than harm for the new starting quarterback.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Rashad Greene
Passing: Jacob Coker
3-5, 45 yds, 1 TDs, 0 INTs
Rushing: Devonta Freeman
111 carries, 660 yds, 8 TDs
Receiving: Rashad Greene
57 catches, 741 yds, 6 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RT Bobby Hart
Unsung star on the rise: Junior G Josue Matias
Best pro prospect: Junior LT Cameron Erving
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Greene, 2) Erving, 3) Junior OG Tre' Jackson
Strength of the offense: Potential at quarterback, running back, the ground game, the O-line, red-zone conversions
Weakness of the offense: Youth at quarterback, fumbling, third-down conversions
And a child will lead them. EJ Manuel is now a Buffalo Bill, and Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia, leaving Florida State to start a new era behind center; in all likelihood, the Jameis Winston era in Tallahassee. No, the ‘Noles have yet to anoint a starter, but the redshirt freshman, who also plays for the school's baseball team, made a very loud statement with his spring performance. The 6-4, 218-pounder began to show why he was the nation's top quarterback recruit of 2012, flashing a powerful arm, excellent athleticism and uncommon poise for such an untested player. The sky is the limit for Winston, whose ceiling is higher than Manuel's was five years ago.
On the post-spring depth chart, there was an "OR" between the name of Winston and that of 6-6, 235-pound sophomore Jacob Coker, AJ McCarron's heir apparent in high school. The hard-throwing Coker is the only quarterback on the roster who's seen live action, going 3-of-5 for 45 yards and a touchdown in four games last year. He's surprisingly agile for such a big player, though an ankle injury hindered his mobility in April. At a program that's started a backup in three of the last four years, Coker will need to be ready to go this season.
Lagging behind Winston and Coker is redshirt freshman Sean Maguire, a three-star recruit from a year ago. The 6-3, 215-pounder is coming along, but with a pair of underclassmen currently ahead of him on the depth chart, he could be a transfer candidate at some point.
Watch Out For … Winston to be forced to tune out all kinds of comparisons. Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has stated publicly that he sees similarities to RG3. Countless others have wondered aloud if the second-coming of Charlie Ward is upon us. Winston is very mature, but he'll still need to maintain a razor focus as the hype machine starts cranking up around him.
Strength: The future. Winston has shown early signs of being one of the game's budding young superstars at the position. And Coker would start for a slew of programs across the country as a sophomore. Not only do the ‘Noles feel good about their situation entering 2013, but they could be set at the position through at least 2015.
Weakness: Experience. Of the three contenders for playing time this fall, Winston and Maguire are second-year freshmen, and Coker threw just five passes a season ago as a little-used third-stringer. The ceilings are very high at quarterback in Tallahassee, but the growing pains will be unavoidable.
Outlook: You don't get better by losing a first-round NFL draft pick, at least not this quickly. The consistency and the leadership of a Manuel will be difficult to replace overnight. However, there's justifiable enthusiasm about the future, particularly as it pertains to Winston. He possesses special qualities, both tangible and intangible, which ought to lay the groundwork for an auspicious debut as the program's new superstar quarterback.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Leading rusher Chris Thompson and starting FB Lonnie Pryor are gone, but the ground game won't skip a beat in 2013. Last season's second and third leading rushers, juniors Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., respectively, do return with an eye on the starting job. The 6-2, 229-pound Wilder runs as if he's channeling a young Ricky Watters, punishing opposing tacklers between the tacklers. He often required multiple tacklers before being dragged down, barreling for 635 yards and 11 scores on 110 carries in 2012. Testament to Wilder's versatility and athletic ability, he also caught 19 balls for 136 yards and two more touchdowns.
Despite not touching the ball in three games, Freeman still finished last season with 660 yards and eight touchdowns on 111 carries. At 5-9 and 203 pounds, he'll never have the measurables of Wilder, but he does a lot of things really well. He runs hard on every play, with the low center of gravity that makes it difficult to nail him head on. Freeman has a penchant for finding open real estate, a quality that'll lead to a third straight season of at least 500 yards on the ground.
The graduation of Thompson means that 5-10, 192-pound redshirt freshman Mario Pender is set to move up in the pecking order. The sixth-ranked high school running back of 2012 was shut down for all of last season because of a groin injury. What separates Pender from his peers is the elite speed to bang out homeruns whenever he gets a little daylight.
Now that the versatile and underrated Pryor has departed, 6-0, 240-pound senior Chad Abram is poised to take over the fullback job. A former safety for the Seminoles, Abram has made the adjustment to offense, while remaining a standout on special teams.
Watch Out For … Wilder to blossom into a nationally-recognized performer. There won't be enough carries to go around for any one individual on this team to, say, lead the ACC in rushing. However, Wilder's running style and ability to literally carry tacklers on his back will make him a popular individual when it's time to roll the plays of the week tape.
Strength: Depth. Florida State is home to three backs likely to go over 500 yards on the ground this fall. And any one of them could be 1,000-yarders if given the ball enough times. The Seminoles will also be balanced out the backfield, deftly nuancing the raw power of Wilder with the speed of Pender.
Weakness: Fullback. There's not a lot to dislike about the Florida State tailbacks. The fullback position, though, will not be the same without Pryor in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles are going to miss the former alum's versatility, including his ability to earn tough yards, pick up blitz and serve as a safety valve in the passing game.
Outlook: After finishing 24th nationally in rushing behind a diverse and balanced ground game, more of the same is expected out of the backs in 2013. Freeman is one of the steadiest performers on offense, but Wilder and Pender are looking at this season as an opportunity to begin taking flight. With the speed of the latter and the bruising nature of the former, opposing defenses will have a lot to contend with.
Unit Rating: 8
Whoever wins the quarterback job can take solace in knowing that junior WR Rashad Greene is only at the halfway point of his collegiate career. The 6-0, 175-pound gamebreaker at "X" became the first Seminoles player since Peter Warrick in 1999 to score touchdowns three different ways in the same season. He caught a team-high 57 balls for 741 yards and six scores, adding a touchdown on the ground and two on punts. Greene has blazing jets that allow him to get behind the secondary, or explode through the opposing D on a simple slant pattern. If he can bring it on a more consistent, week-in, week-out basis, a spot on the All-ACC Team will be waiting.
The starter in the slot, or "Y" receiver, will likely be 6-0, 170-pound Kenny Shaw, a veteran of 38 games. Now a senior, he's really polished up his overall game, adding crisp routes and soft hands to the speed and quickness to zip past defenders. The big-play Shaw turned last season's 33 catches into 532 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
The corps took a hit when projected "Z" starter Greg Dent was suspended in June following a sexual assault arrest. Since it looks increasingly unlikely that Dent will play in 2013, massive sophomore Kelvin Benjamin is expected to elevate a rung higher on the depth chart. The 6-5, 242-pounder, with the enormous wingspan, presents obvious matchup problems for defenders. However, the staff wants to see more consistency and better ball skills from its prodigious target. Benjamin began to scratch the surface of his potential in 2012 by catching 30 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior Nick O'Leary is set to reprise his role as the starting tight end, especially since backup Kevin Haplea has been lost for the year to an ACL tear. The 6-3, 238-pound O'Leary is a jack-of-all-trades for the offense, serving as a pass-catcher and a blocker. He has strong and reliable hands, a reason the coaching staff is hoping for an uptick on last year's 21 grabs for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
The Seminoles favor a rotation at wide receiver, allowing a number of players to contribute in the passing game. Junior Christian Green is listed as a backup at "Z" and "Y", an indication of his flexibility. The one-time Freshman All-American candidate is hoping to rebound after his production slipped to just three catches for 33 yards last year. Jarred Haggins and Willie Haulstead are seniors who've played a lot of football for the program. Haggins is a 6-0, 190-pound former high school quarterback with 20 career receptions for 206 yards. Haulstead is a physical 6-2, 227-pounder whose career was derailed by a season-ending concussion suffered in 2011. As a sophomore in 2010, he pulled down 38 catches for 587 yards and six scores.
Watch Out For … Benjamin's mindset. With Dent concentrating on his legal troubles, Benjamin has a golden opportunity to begin fulfilling his vast potential. While there's zero doubt that the sophomore has what it takes to be a game-changer, the coaches want to see a player who's ready to leave it all on the field, week-in and week-out.
Strength: Pure talent. Florida State is chock full of outstanding veteran athletes from top to bottom. Heck, before Dent and Haplea became roster casualties, the ‘Noles could have gone three-deep with potential playmakers. The corps of receivers and tight ends displays speed, agility and imposing size now that Benjamin's role is set to expand.
Weakness: Consistency … after Greene. Greene is in a league of his own, as it pertains to the receivers. And that's part of the problem. The falloff after No. 80 is a little too steep at wideout. Particularly in light of the Dent situation, Florida State needs sustained productivity from the likes of Shaw and Benjamin now more than ever.
Outlook: Sure, Florida State's depth at wide receiver and tight end has taken a hit this offseason, but there are still plenty of playmakers remaining on the roster. Greene and O'Leary are All-ACC contenders at wide receiver and tight end, respectively. The ultimate judgment of the unit, though, will hinge on how well the supporting cast adapts to expanded roles.
Unit Rating: 7.5
At this time last year, uncertainty engulfed the Florida State O-line. Today, it's one of the strengths of the offense. Four starters return, three of whom were named Second Team All-ACC in 2012. Junior Cameron Erving was a revelation last year, his first at left tackle, making an uncommonly smooth transition from the defensive line. Sure, he's still a little raw, but also flashed the light feet and the high ceiling of a blocker who could go on to play in the NFL someday. At 6-6 and 320 pounds, he has the long arms required to keep pass rushers disrupting the quarterback's rhythm.
Firmly positioned under the microscope this fall will be 6-4, 310-pound Bobby Hart, the projected starter at right tackle. The junior has had a turbulent career so far in Tallahassee, regressing from a 17-year-old Freshman All-American in 2011 to a backup a year ago. While the talent is in place for a rebound, Hart needs to display more hunger, focus and maturity than he did in 2012.
The anchor of the right side, providing support to Hart, will be 6-4, 330-pound bulldozing G Tre' Jackson, who joined Erving on the All-ACC Second Team. From a modestly recruited high school prospect to all-league, he's a rising young star among linemen. Building on the momentum of his first career start in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, he became progressively more comfortable as a run blocker as last year evolved. Jackson is a bear at the point of attack, locking on to opposing linemen and driving them off the ball, yet still possesses the agility to get downfield and finish blocks on the second level. With O-line coach Rick Trickett overseeing his development, Jackson could bloom into a next-level road-grader this year.
Jackson's partner at left guard will again be junior Josue Matias, another returning starter with a very promising future in garnet and gold. A tenacious and assertive run blocker at 6-6 and 320 pounds, he led the 2012 squad with 31 knockdown blocks. The agile and mammoth Matias should start getting more attention from all-league voters and NFL scouts now that he has a full season of snaps on his resume.
Unless he's forced to slide outside to replace Menelik Watson at right tackle, ultra-versatile senior Bryan Stork will once again man the pivot. Florida State's version of Alabama's Barrett Jones has started games at guard and at center, becoming the third member of the Second Team All-ACC trio in 2012. The 6-4, 312-pound Stork is a seasoned veteran, with the size and strength to overwhelm smaller opponents on the interior. Looking nothing like the former high school tight end that first arrived in Tallahassee, he's packed on the weight without sacrificing footwork or agility.
If Stork is forced to wander in the fall, the starting center job would go to 6-3, 295-pound junior Austin Barron. No stranger to the lineup, he started three games as a rookie in 2011 and one more last year. The Seminoles know what they're going to get if the heady and hard-working Barron moves into the lineup. The staff also has confidence in 6-4, 322-pound Jacob Fahrenkrug, a third-year transfer from North Dakota State College. He started games at guard and center in 2011, but had his 2012 campaign cut short by injury after four games.
Watch Out For … Hart to get the nod for the opener with Pittsburgh. The spring session provided the staff with enough evidence that No. 51 is the best option at this time. While Hart remains the weakest link on an otherwise solid starting unit, he did appear to be blocking with more focus and confidence during practice.
Strength: Mauling opponents. The Seminoles are at their best when lining up and running right at opposing defenses. The interior is especially nasty, with Jackson, Stork and Matias displaying the desired level of tenacity. Florida State went from 3.3 yards per carry in 2011 to 5.6 yards per carry in 2012 in large part to the development of this line.
Weakness: Experience off the bench. Barron and Fahrenkrug will prevent sleepless night, but the coaching staff still has plenty to worry about with regard to the bench. The ‘Noles are really thin at tackle, with the post-spring depth chart showing walk-on Jonathan Wallace and little-used sophomore Trey Pettis as the No. 2's.
Outlook: No unit in Tallahassee grew further or faster than the O-line did in 2012, a credit to the work being done by venerable assistant Rick Trickett. After suffering through some predictable growing pains, the Seminoles expect to rank among the ACC's best O-lines this fall. The needle is pointing firmly north for the front wall, as Erving, Jackson and Matias prepare for their best seasons to date with the program.
Unit Rating: 8.5
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Florida State Offense
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Florida State Depth Chart
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